The opening of Puerto Princesa City to the Chinese and Korean tourism market has given the local business sector a much-needed shot in the arm. While the main traffic of tourists in Palawan leaned towards other destinations as El Nido and Coron, Puerto Princesa City has apparently captured most of the Asian market, as feedback from the travel sector goes.
There has been a noticeable sprout of foreign owned restaurants and travel agencies catering to the Asian niche market, generally a good sign. This trend has emerged locally as earlier reports noted that an estimated three million Chinese nationals have been allowed to enter in the country since the start of the Duterte administration.
Based on Bureau of Immigration figures, most have come from mainland China and the rest were from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
There are no immediately available records on how much of this total pie ended up in Palawan and under what conditions they have been allowed to enter. It is fair to say however that many are now in the frontline tourism sector as travel agents, and even tourist guides according to some local travel agents.
Such development should raise a healthy concern among our local policy makers, to ensure that the interest of local residents are upheld under a changing tourism and investment landscape. The matter has already sparked concern on the national level, as legislators have warned against a spike of undocumented Chinese workers competing with local jobs.
Perhaps a particular issue that must also be taken into account is Palawan’s pivotal role in the West Philippine Sea dispute with China, a matter of national security. From where we sit, such consideration has not been taken into account in the way we accommodate mainland Chinese nationals.
The proper platform for discussing such issues are the legislature of both the provincial government and the city of Puerto Princesa. Much as we should encourage legitimate businesses putting in investments into the province, we must also ensure that the proper investment climate and policies are in place to protect local and national interests.
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